Sinn Fein looks set to contest Irish presidency

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Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams said Saturday he would like his party to contest Ireland's presidential elections for the first time next month, as it seeks to strengthen its position in the republic.

Addressing Sinn Fein's annual conference in Belfast, he said he would ask the party's executive to meet next week to select a candidate to succeed President Mary McAleese in the ceremonial role.

"The presidency is not a trophy for the political establishment. Across this island more and more people are looking to Sinn Fein for leadership," said Adams, who is president of the republican party.

"In my view Sinn Fein should support the nomination of a candidate to be president of Ireland.

"A candidate who is capable of winning the support of progressive and nationalist opinion. And who will reflect the broad republican spirit of the Irish people at this time."

Sinn Fein is the second largest party in Northern Ireland and shares power in the British-ruled province, with one of its lawmakers, Martin McGuinness, holding the post of deputy first minister in Belfast.

But it is seeking to increase its presence in the Republic of Ireland.

In February's elections, it became the fourth largest party, and Adams was elected to the Irish parliament for the first time.

© 2011 AFP

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